Age Discrimination – top tips to be an age-friendly employer

Alongside the codification of provisions against discrimination on grounds of race, sex and disability, the Equality Act 2010 clarified that discrimination on grounds of age was also unlawful, but top employment lawyers in London and employment claim solicitors generally will often point to age discrimination being prioritised less than discrimination based on other protected characteristics. Being an age-friendly employer is something that all organisations should be aspiring to, but for some, it may require a different way of thinking, which is why working with a team of the best employment lawyers in London can help get it right. 

In the context of an aging workforce – which has recently encouraged the Centre for Ageing Better to commission a report entitled ‘Becoming an age-friendly employer’ in conjunction with Business in the Community, it’s more important than ever for employers to recognise that age diversity within the workplace is vital for business. Between 2018 and 2025, there will be 300,000 fewer workers aged under 30, yet 1 million more workers over the age of 50. Complications arising from Brexit will also have an impact on the UK’s workforce. To ignore older (or younger) workers is to rule out a rich resource with plenty of valuable experience, and yet there are still many things that employers can do to make sure age discrimination has no place in their workplaces. Here are some top tips, practical steps recommended by the Centre for Ageing Better, to help you be an age-friendly employer.

Revisit your flexible working policies

Many employers focus on flexible working in the context of working parents – and rightly so, but the needs of other employees, including those in the older age bracket may be different, and a flexible working policy geared solely to new parents – who will by definition be in a younger age bracket – could cause difficulties from an age perspective. Talk to your staff and find out what they need from a flexible working policy – as with any kind of action to eliminate discrimination, it is far better to talk to your employees than simply assume what their needs are.

Recruit on an ‘age-positive’ basis

Getting recruitment, both external and internal, right to avoid age discrimination, is key to ensuring an age-diverse workforce. Think about the words and images you use in recruitment campaigns and think about whether they are truly ‘age friendly’. It is possible to objectively justify indirect discrimination on grounds of age, so if a job really does need someone in a specific age bracket, this should be acceptable – but make sure the recruiting managers really challenge themselves on this.

Consider health support

An increasingly age-diverse workforce may bring with it an increase in health issues but encouraging an atmosphere where open discussion is encouraged should mean that problems can be dealt with early on in a supportive way, rather than being left until a crisis – for both the employee and the employer – is reached. It doesn’t take much to enable individuals to manage their health conditions more positively, enabling them to work longer not just for their benefit but for the employer’s benefit too.

Remember that career development doesn’t stop at a certain age

Many older workers will be coming back to their careers after time off raising families. Many are ambitious and offering career development all the way through the career path will recognise this. Open discussions with your work force will help identify the kind of development individuals will like, and how they like to learn. Taking time to discuss career plans – perhaps on a regular basis rather than imposing something once an employee hits a particular age (a career ‘review’ coinciding with a ‘big birthday’ may make an employee feel suspicious or nervous about what’s to come) can help with ongoing career development too.

Ensure your workplace culture is age-friendly

Rooting out unconscious bias is vital, particularly in a technically complex age where digital is the norm. There can be a tendency to assume that older workers do not or will not adapt to new technology. The reality is that digital technology is being embraced by every generation. Some workers may need more support to learn how to use new devices or apps, but this won’t necessarily be confined to the older workers in your organisation. There may be many other assumptions that your employees are making every day about your older employees that need to be challenged. Equally, if your work force is predominantly made up of older people, watch out for assumptions that they may be making about younger members of staff. Although it tends to be thought of as something that impacts older workers more than younger workers, age discrimination can work both ways.

Our experienced, London-based employment law solicitors will be pleased to work with your organisation to ensure your HR policies and practices are age-friendly and encourage an age-friendly culture. To find out more about our wide range of employment law and HR services, please call us on 0203 959 9123.

 

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